The Story Behind Big Freedia’s Breakout Beyoncé Sample
The Story Behind Big Freedia’s Breakout Beyoncé Sample
By Daniel Malloy
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because a life-changing moment can happen very quickly.
By Daniel Malloy
She helped popularize the New Orleans sound called bounce and notched a famous Beyoncé sample along the way. Now Big Freedia joins OZY’s co-founder and CEO on The Carlos Watson Show. Below are the best cuts from their full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.
Carlos Watson: So now, were you this fun when you were a kid? What were you like as a kid? Were you this fun and this lively?
Big Freedia: Oh, most definitely. I was way more lively than I am now. I was just screaming, walking up hallways, just this big jolly queen. I was young, full of energy. I was way more fun as a kid. Yeah. So that’s why I had tons of friends. People who love me. They love me at my high school. My church home, all around my neighborhood. I was definitely live, loud and common.
Watson: And now, were you out and open even as a teenager?
Big Freedia: Oh, most definitely. I came out to my mom at 13. So as a teenager, I was in my full bloom of being who I wanted to be, still trying to find my way, but I definitely was out.
Watson: Now, why did you have that confidence when so many kids don’t? Because you know for a lot of kids, that’s been a struggle. Why do you think you were so confident that you were able to say that to your mom and be out in high school?
Big Freedia: The relationship. I think it was the relationship that me and my mom had that played a big part, and she was my biggest cheerleader. She was my protector. And once I told her, I didn’t need approval from anybody else in the world. Once the lady who born me approved it, I really didn’t care what everybody else thought. And so once she had my back, I started to move forward and started to find myself. And that’s what it was. As long as Mom approved, I didn’t need nobody else.
Watson: And what about other folks at school? The fact that you came out, did that give other people confidence to be themselves and accept themselves? Was there a ripple effect among any friends or classmates that you saw?
Big Freedia: I don’t think it was a ripple effect. I think that my friends in the community who were gay, they looked up to me. They look up to my mom. She was the cool mom. They always came over. Their moms wasn’t fully accepting. So they had a really rough time at home and a really rough way to go. But as time went on and they started to see me and my mom’s relationship, they started to lighten up a little bit. My mom started to talk to their moms, and as time went on, they built a great bond with their moms. But no, definitely didn’t start a ripple effect. It was very much not talked about a lot in the neighborhood. It wasn’t so accepted being Black and gay. And in the hood … Yeah, it was always being something being whispered about you, or we have to fight and fight for who we wanted to be and stand up. My mom used to always say, “You better go back out there and be a man and kick their ass.”
Watson: Did you?
Big Freedia: I had to, I had no choice. I was very quiet and I was very humble and it took a lot for people to get me riled up, but when you did, it was hard for me to come down.
Watson: Do you feel like it is different now being Black and gay than it was back then? I mean, I guess the obvious answer is yes, but I guess I’m thinking about this a little bit, because you also said your church home, and I’ve always felt like, I’m the grandson of a Baptist minister, and I’ve always felt like there’s been an interesting dichotomy there that, on one hand, I felt like people who were Black and gay often played important roles in the church, but I felt like it was almost a “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Everybody knew, but I felt like the conversation didn’t always happen out loud. What was your experience like?
Big Freedia: Same thing. It was the same way, it was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I mean, I was the choir director, and the organizer was gay and we had other gay choir members. So it wasn’t something that was always brought up. It was just, you just roll with it and they accepted it. They loved us for who we were. We didn’t have to hide or be closeted. And that was the most important thing, that they still accepted it. If they talked about it, they talked about it amongst themselves and we didn’t know. And my godmother, who was the head choir director, she would protect me and she would be there in defense of anything that I wanted to do. And in the church, she would have my back.
Big Freedia: So it’s all about support systems, and I had a great support system with my mom at home, my godmother at church. And I had a few friends in the community that supported me. So the little trouble that I did have to go through with kids at school and other folks in the neighborhood, it didn’t happen so much, but when it did happen, I think I was old enough to be prepared and to, to handle it on my own. And if I did, my mom was going out there ready with a bat, a gun, whatever she needed to fight for me.
Defining a Genre
Watson: For people who don’t know bounce music. How do you describe it?
Big Freedia: Bounce music is a New Orleans–based music, is a subgenre of hip-hop, is up-tempo, heavy bass call-and-respond–type music, has a lot to do with shaking the ass and moving the body. It’s a party music, it’s a fun music. It gets the party hyped. You put on a Freedia song and the club going twerking, OK?
Watson: Now, what did you call twerking before everyone knew the phrase twerking? What did you call it?
Big Freedia: Well, I usually use the term twerking for certain things, but we say we wiggle, we wobble. We have bend over, bust open, but we used to call it pussy pop, it’s just straight old pussy pop.
The Big Beyoncé Moment
Watson: Tell me about Beyoncé. How did she come across you and start adopting your music, your sound, your work?
Big Freedia: Well, one day she came to New Orleans and saw me at a club a long time ago and it was her, Kelly Rowland and Solange. And they just came to hang out with me and see me perform. And that was the first time we came in contact. And then I was invited to her mom’s 60th party that was here in New Orleans and all the stars were there. We hung out, we dance, we laugh, it was just amazing. And then a few years after that, my publicist called and said that “Beyoncé want to talk to you.” And I was like, “Well, girl, why are you still on the phone?” I was sitting by the phone waiting for the phone call and I was nervous, excited, all at the same time. And when she called, she said that she wanted me to be a part of this project that she had coming up and she was going to send me a snippet of the song. And she wanted me to talk some New Orleans on it. And I was like, Oh, that’s easy. Talk some New Orleans, I talk lots of shit.
She saw this clipping. It was about three to five seconds, which was not a clipping to hear nothing. It was like, “Girl, when, where?” So after we got the clipping, me and my DJ, we went to the studio, we looped it over for about a minute and 30 seconds to two minutes. And then I started to talk some shit on it, where I came up with, “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to slay.” I sent it back and she said, “Oh, my God, this is perfect. I love it.“ Next thing I know I’m walking up at a parade around Mardi Gras time, a fan come up to me and say, “Oh, my God, it’s Big Freedia. I just heard you on a Beyoncé song.” I say, “Oh, my God, I didn’t hear myself on a Beyoncé song.“ So I never even knew I made the project.”
So running from the parade flying to my car, calling my manager, “Look, somebody just said they had the Beyoncé song.” He was like, “You lying. Holy shit.” And he started leaving the parade, we both trying to get to the song. And that night was just amazing. People coming from everywhere. “Oh, my God. The Beyoncé track is so fire. This is so big.” And after that, things just started to take off even more and I’m forever grateful for Beyoncé. I love her so much and I appreciate her even knowing who I was, liking my sound and putting me a part of the project. It will go down in history forever. And it was big for New Orleans and for the movement of Katrina. And we love her here.
- Daniel Malloy, OZY Author Contact Daniel Malloy